What is Crohn’s disease?
Paediatric Crohn’s disease, is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It is a chronic inflammatory condition that primarily affects the gastrointestinal tract in children and adolescents. Crohn’s disease is one of the two main types of IBD, the other being ulcerative colitis.
Whilst paediatric Crohn’s disease is rare, it is becoming more prevalent with one study showing an increase from 4.2 children per 100,000 to 9.5 children per 100,000 from 1990 to 2011 .Some parts of England now report rates of 60 / 100,000.
Treatment of Paediatric Crohn’s disease needs an individualised treatment plan to avoid serious consequences such as:
- growth retardation
- pubertal delay
- nutritional impairment
First-degree relatives have a 12-15 times greater risk of developing Crohn’s, and given the much higher rates of Crohn’s in adults, it is prudent for children with a family history of Crohn’s to adopt a preventative style of diet.
This article will examine 4 dietary habits that are protective against Crohn’s and 4 dietary factors that will increase the likelihood of Crohn’s disease developing. Adjusting a child’s diet based on these will ensure the best possible outcome.
Factors lowering the risk of developing Crohn’s disease
Increase omega 3 fatty acids
The more omega 3 fatty acids, specifically DHA in a child’s diet, the less chance there is of developing Crohn’s. People who eat the most fish (1-2 portions of oily fish per week), have a 94% less chance of developing Crohn’s. Sardines are a great, economical and practical way to include oily fish on a regular basis.
Eat more fruit
High fruit intake is associated with less development of Crohn’s disease.
Those who eat fruit more than once a day have an 80% less chances of developing Crohn’s than those who eat fruit less than once a week. Increasing fruit in a child’s diet is pretty easy!! Send fruit to school for munch and crunch. Skip the packet of crackers or chips and send a second piece of fruit!
Eat more vegetables
More vegetables means chance of developing Crohn’s disease. For every extra 1 serve of vegetables per day, the chance of developing Crohn’s disease reduces by 11% .
This is definitely trickier for some kids but get creative. Add some zucchini to a smoothie or make muffins with added carrot. Consider different cooking techniques – an air fryer for sweet potato or bake cauliflower in the oven. Try to include a little bit of veggies in most meals and snacks to achieve 5 serves per day.
A high long-term intake of fibre, especially from fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower overall risk of developing Crohn’s disease. If you increase the fruits and vegetables mentioned above, you will be well on your way to achieving your child’s fibre goals.
Factors leading to increased risk of developing Crohn’s disease.
Eating excess animal protein
High consumptions of meat or fish, but not of eggs or dairy products, were positively associated with IBD risk. So, more animal protein means more chance of developing Crohn’s disease. High intake is defined as more than 2g / kg body weight per day. Vegetable based protein do not carry the risk . Think twice before putting your child on a fad diet that emphasizes meat at the expense of fruits and veggies.
Having excess heme iron
Eating too much heme iron, whether in food or supplementation, increases risk of Crohn’s. This links back to not eating too much red meat, but also about being very cautious about using iron supplements. They are absolutely needed for some situations and for some children, but never just give an iron supplement ‘just in case’. Always work out why your child needs an iron supplement in the first place and then give them an appropriate dose for the shorted time possible,
Drinking excess soft drinks increases risk of Crohn’s. Soft drinks add nothing to your child’s health and have zero nutritional value. Don’t buy them for the home and your child’s consumption will reduce dramatically.
Trans fats were ‘invented’ to replace the much-maligned saturated fats. Unfortunately, as time went on it was realised that trans fats are much worse High consumption of trans-fats is risk for Crohn’s development.
So if your child is at high risk of developing Crohn’s disease or has already been diagnosed, make these changes to their diet, and get professional help from the team at The Paediatric Naturopath.